Young Duck women move onto NCs

The Duck women did what they had to do and got their primary competitors through to the NCAA meet in Sacramento. It was not a spectacular performance but a youthful women's team will gain valuable experience. Of the 14 West region competitors in individual events, 12 are freshmen or sophomores. The other two are seniors. On the 4x400 meter relay were two juniors, a freshman, and a sophomore.

Two of those sophomores are pretty spectacular, Rachel Yurkovich and Rebekah Noble. After a year of adjustment to college training high school and American junior record holder Rachel Yurkovich is expected to win her first NCAA title. She took one threw and reach 178-9, only two other throwers have thrown better than that this year. She did what she wanted to and qualified. "My goal going in was to take one throw that would put me in the top five, and I just prayed it'd be a good one. After I threw, I was confident that the throw would hold." Her best this year, 57.90m 189-11, is fifth on the all-time collegiate list.

Defending NCAA champion and World Junior Championship bronze medalist Noble has had some injury problems but ran a smart and solid race and will hopefully fully recover by the NCAA meet. She finished second behind this year's second fastest collegian, Alysia Johnson, and is joined by Freshman Zoe Buckman at the NCAA meet.

Freshman Ducks qualified for the NCAA meet in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. Nicole Blood ran an eight second personal best, 16:19.15, for third behind Pac-10 10k winner Teresa McWalters (16:04.92) of Stanford who ran down Whitney McDonald of BYU (16:05.30). Sophomore Zoe Nelson (16:53.98) of Oregon ran close to her pr set at the Pac-10 meet (16:50.42). Last year she ran 17:08.60 (Pac-10) and 17:30.33 in the same two meets showing she is peaking at the right time this year. Kearra Sammons had already qualified for the 10,000 meters based on her 21st ranked performance 33:54.55 at the Stanford Invitational at the end of March.

Duck Senior Brittney Henry did what she had to do and finished third to qualify for the NCAA meet behind 2006 NCAA runner up Eva Orban of USC (219-0). After winning the Oregon Twilight and Pac-10 meet in recent weeks she admittedly gave herself a mental break for this meet, "I just wanted a ticket to Nationals. I had a couple of good throws and that is all I wanted. I need to focus on my technique and not worry about the distance." At the Pac-10 meet Henry focused on her sprained left foot, which she admitted was a technique key, and won the Pac-10 championship for the Ducks.

Sophomore Ashley McCrae, battling a knee injury, also qualified for the NCAA meet by finishing by finishing in the last qualifying spot, fifth, with a throw of 159-1. Duck senior Emily Enders cleared a season best in the pole vault but the odds were against her. Ranked 20th in the West region going into the meet and facing the toughest region in the country with 5 of the top 12 competitors in the country in the West region and an incredible 40 qualifiers in just this region alone (20 to 25 is normal) the odds were against her to get a an automatic qualifying fifth place finish. Last she was third and this year finished seventh with a best clearance of 3.96m, 12-11 ¾. Freshman Eniko Eros (3.81, 12-6) and sophomore Tara Rhein (nh) made their West regional debut for the Ducks. They finished behind Arizona State school record holder April Kubishta who broke her own outdoor school record at 4.26m, 13-11 ¾.

First year runner Keshia Baker finished one spot out of the 400 final (9th place in 54.90), an event won by Deanna Goodwin from Cal State Northridge (53.56). Sophomore Lucy Cridland had the second-best throw of her career (158-6) and finished 13th. Megan Maloney, sophomore, threw the Hammer for the second time at the West region championships and threw 157-1 where many throwers were well behind their season bests. Oregon's 4x400 meter relay was off its season best without top runner (and still slightly injured) Rebekah Noble, a late scratch. Things just quite work out this year for a young Duck team like it could next year. Arizona State and USC are peaking at the right time for a run at a trophy or a championship.

Arizona State and USC showed their strength for the NCAA meet. Arizona State's strength in the three throwing events other than the javelin will fuel them at the NCAA meet. Sarah Stevens qualified in three (won the Discus at 182-5), Jessica Pressley automatically qualified in two (won the Shot Put at 58-6 ½ over national leader Stevens) and will be selected for a third (hammer), and Tai Battle will join them in the Discus. Amy Hastings will focus on just the 10,000 where she was fourth at last year's NCAA meet. Latosha Wallace pr'd, 56.43, and finished second in the 400 hurdles behind Nicole Leach of UCLA, 55.49. Wallace moved to fourth on the collegiate list. Four time multi-event collegiate champion will attempt to defend her title at the NCAA meet. Winning pole vaulter Kubishta moved to third on the collegiate list.

Just like at the Pac-10 meet Carol Rodriguez and Jessica Onyepunuka of USC finished 1-2 in the 100 and 200. USC 200 and 400 meter school record-holder Rodriguez is indicating that she is ready to peak at the NCAA meet, "This year I started my speed work a little later and focused on building a stronger base. This is the first time that I ran under 23.00 seconds this year. I feel like I am peaking at the right time and feel like I can win NCAAs." Carol and Jessica are part of the fifth ranked 4x100 meter relay (first at 44.07) team that includes hurdler Candice Davis. Candice, ranked third nationally, was in the lead until she clipped the 10th hurdle and almost didn't make it to the finish and finished third. A big meet by Rodriguez would be necessary to put USC in the hunt for a trophy.

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